With Arab travel to the United States all but obliterated, along with the Twin Towers, since September 11, 2001, and with tensions in old haunts like France and Spain, cashed-up Arabs have been looking further afield. And the Gold Coast is flashing its "welcome" sign down under.
The highlight of the trip? The friendliness of the locals. Humaid says he only had to get the map out and someone was offering help. Shafeeqa felt safe here and was amazed that, unlike other places they've visited, "when you buy something, they don't make a mistake with your money".
"When they first start arriving, they get looks," says Lawand. "Some people may react a bit racist but, after a while, it goes away. (The visitors) become very relaxed, they love it. In the evenings, Cavill Mall becomes Little Dubai. The whole family comes down, they stick around until midnight, then they go home. They love to congregate."
LAWAND RECKONS ABOUT 17,000 ARAB TOURISTS reached the Gold Coast last year "and 99 per cent of all Arab tourists to Australia come here". He expects the figure to hit 40,000 in five years. It's a minnow compared to the Japanese market, which tipped 377,000 arrivals in 1997, but Gold Coast Tourism boss Pavan Bhatia says comparisons aren't helpful. Three factors make this market a gem: the Arabs arrive in the Gold Coast's traditionally quiet winter months, stay almost four times as long as the Japanese, and spend up big.